The attention of the management of the Federal Ministry of Finance has been drawn to a story in The Punch newspaper of Tuesday, March 28, 2017 entitled, “Probe Uncovers Massive Fraud in YouWin Programme.”
It will be recalled that the current administration inherited YouWin as an ongoing programme, which had made legally binding commitments of grants to 1, 500 entrepreneurs. The administration decided that those commitments should be honoured. It was in that regard that a batch of awardees under YouWin 3 was submitted to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, for cash disbursement totaling N611,821,910.
Allegations were received from an anonymous whistleblower, which provided documentary evidence of irregularities in 10 cases out of the batch. The Minister immediately directed that an internal investigation be conducted to determine the veracity of the alleged fraud and report the findings to her for necessary action.
The substance of the allegations was that an awardee was the child of a former Director in the Ministry and there were a number of cases where married couples each benefitted. This raised concerns about the integrity of the original selection process, which took place in 2014.
The position of the Ministry is that investigations are ongoing under the Presidential Initiative on Continues Audit (PICA) who will review each suspected case to determine whether any irregularity occurred. In the interim, disbursements of this batch have been suspended.
It is on record that the original YouWin programme midwife 3,900 enterprises within four years, and was just one of the multiple intervention programmes to create jobs at the time.
This administration initiated a review of the YouWin programme with a view to ensuring sustainability. That review acknowledged the success of the original YouWin programme but also found among other limitations, that awardees were overly focused on the grant aspect of the programme and few had been able to secure other forms of funding to grow their businesses despite each receiving up to 10 million in grants. In that regard, the Ministry redesigned the programme and relaunched it as YouWinConnect to focus more on continuous enterprise education which will build the capacity of young entrepreneurs across range of disciplines.
By so doing, YouWinConnect expects to develop entrepreneurs who can attract funding from wide range of sources currently available and take advantage of new funding sources. The funding element of YouWinConnect will now take the form of a Venture Fund which will take equity stakes in new and growing businesses.